The future of the technology industry will be shaped by a range of disruptive themes, with autonomous vehicles (AVs) being one of the themes that will have a significant impact on consumer electronics companies. A detailed analysis of the theme, insights into the leading companies, and their thematic and valuation scorecards are included in GlobalData’s thematic research report,Autonomous Vehicles – Thematic Research.  Buy the report here.

AVs promise to bring mobility to sections of the market that have never before had access such as children, the disabled or those otherwise unable to drive themselves. In addition, they could enable a brace of new businesses in the commercial space such as ride-hail services using robotaxis, on-demand freight logistics services, or mobile retail and service spaces that can be brought directly to the customer. However, the challenge of commercialising AVs has proven equally great. The leap taken from SAE level 1 autonomy to level 2, for example, is small compared to the jump in complexity needed for level 3 ‘eyes-off’ AV operation. These systems look laughably simple, however, compared to the level of complexity that will be demanded by truly self-driving level 4 and level 5 models, which might not even include controls for human drivers.  


However, not all companies are equal when it comes to their capabilities and investments in the key themes that matter most to their industry. Understanding how companies are positioned and ranked in the most important themes can be a key leading indicator of their future earnings potential and relative competitive position.  

According to GlobalData’s thematic research report, Autonomous Vehicles, leading adopters include: Apple, Alphabet, Sony, Amazon, Samsung Electronics, Parrot, Huawei, Garmin, Alibaba, Baidu, Xiaomi, Philips, Panasonic and BlackBerry

Insights from top ranked companies 


Alphabet owns Waymo. Waymo is a contender for the leading developer of autonomous vehicle brains. The company had been sending out confusing signals about its go-to-market strategy – would it focus on developing embedded robot drivers for third-party OEMs, commercialise AVs of its own, or offer its own robot taxi service? Ultimately, its service is a blend of all three and was notable as being the first company to launch a limited commercial robotaxi service at the end of 2018 in Arizona. It has become a world leader in developing robot drivers thanks to the combination of Alphabet’s peerless software, AI smarts, tech infrastructure, and considerable robotics know-how. It is unlikely to be toppled from this position any time soon. Besides this, Waymo has clocked up more than 20 million real road miles and tens of billions of simulated miles – multiple times more than its competitors. It currently reports the need for human intervention only once every 13,000 miles on average which far outstrips any of its competitors. In February 2018, Waymo settled a lawsuit with Uber over stolen IP related to its self-driving software. 


Apple had clearly built up a substantial auto-tech capability within Project Titan and, with a great deal more investment, it could have been a major force in the future of automotive. With the decision to lay off more than 200 Project Titan employees in January 2019, Apple appears to be scaling back its automotive ambitions. Tim Cook had previously called the autonomous vehicle “the mother of all AI” and made it clear that Apple was developing robot drivers. At the same time, Apple is aiming to make iOS the operating system for smart cars, at the very least within the cockpit. Still unclear is whether Steve Jobs’ dying wish of taking on Detroit is still alive within Apple. It is too early to say definitively that there will never be an iPhone-style Apple car. Meanwhile, Apple is actively testing Apple-brained vehicles under National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) license on Californian highways. It is possible that, rather than develop an entire car, Apple may develop the brains to run it and license that technology to third-party companies. The rumour mill went into overdrive in February 2021 when it emerged that Apple and Hyundai had held talks, likely surrounding the former’s ambition of breaking into the automotive field via AVs. This was quickly quashed, however, with both companies confirming that no decision of any kind had been made. 

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the technology industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Autonomous Vehicles

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